One of the hardest things for someone in ministry to do is to celebrate the victories of others. I know this from personal experience. I have the distinct ability to develop tunnel vision. By its basic definition, tunnel vision is the loss of peripheral vision while retaining central vision. The result is a limited view. We already cannot see everything at once as it is, but tunnel vision restricts our field of vision even more severely.
Often times in ministry, I get so focused and narrowed in on what I am responsible for and what is going on at our church that I am oblivious to what God is doing in the BIG picture of His Kingdom agenda. The problem here is not that I am focused on the ministry God has given me, but that I neglect the bigger picture of what He is doing from a Kingdom perspective. After all, Jesus teaches us to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). When tunnel vision creeps in I tend to overreact to the the challenges I am facing in ministry and I may also over-exaggerate the good days. Things are never as bad as they seem nor as good as they seem.Ultimately, the “boastful pride of life” (1John 2:16) takes over and I become agitated when I do take a moment to look up from my ministry work only to see that God is blessing and advancing His Kingdom through another’s ministry. The honest reality is that many of us in ministry struggle with the competition syndrome. I think some of it is because we use the world’s standards for success to measure ministry as if such a calling can be measured by such means. But I truly believe the real issue is that our hearts can become hard because of our pride.
I attended a church planting conference hosted by the North American Mission Board several years ago. One of the speakers was a pastor named J.D. Greear from The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina. He shared a personal story in his message at the conference that really struck a nerve for me. He shared that at one point in his ministry at The Summit he had been praying for revival in their city of Durham and for God to use his church to radically impact the city with the gospel. He told how God spoke to him in his prayer time and in essence challenged J.D. with this … Okay, I’ll send revival, but I am going to send it through the church down the street. Do you still want it that bad now?
Ministry can be a lonely experience without ignorantly alienating ourselves from others. So, what are some practical ways that we can remain Kingdom-minded in the ministry and enjoy celebrating the Kingdom with others?
Pray for a pure heart. Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). If my heart is pure then I will not have a problem with being asked how my ministry is going nor will I have a problem with hearing how the ministry is going for others.
Practice spiritual disciplines to develop spiritual maturity. The apostle Paul admonished young Timothy to “discipline [himself] for the purpose of godliness.” Spiritual disciplines allow me to see life from the big picture of the Kingdom. It is the difference between the 30,000 feet view and street level. At the street level I am not able to see how all of the pieces are working together, but from the 30,000 feet view of the Kingdom I find great encouragement and resolve for being part of what God is doing.
Be an encouragement to others in ministry. This would include praying for them, sending them notes of encouragement, calling them, celebrating their victories and comforting them in their challenges. One thing we must learn is how to disagree without being disagreeable. I know, easier said than done, but by God’s grace it is necessary and possible. “Therefore, encourage one another and build up one another ….” (1Thessalonians 5:11)
Spend time with others in ministry. We are all busy, but we will schedule our calendar according to what’s most important to us. If it is important to you to encourage others in ministry and celebrate the Kingdom advancement then you will make time for it in your schedule. This what the Bible calls fellowship. Fellowship does not necessarily have to involve food, but it does need to involve mutual encouragement in the gospel as we celebrate what we share together in Christ. We all need friends, but in order to have friends we must be a friend. Godly friendships allow us to be vulnerable and this will foster mutual edification and gospel celebration through the friendship. “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (2Timothy 4:11).
“God, I pray that we would be found faithful before You to spend our lives for Your glory. Help us, by Your grace, to honor You in the way we honor what You are doing in and through the lives of others. Amen.”